Friday, February 16, 2007

incarnational community: face to face

David Fitch has a stimulating and provocative post entitled, "Pluralism and the Witness of an Open Community". This, probably along with other reading, set me to thinking more about what we're to be, as those together in Jesus, in this world.

Jesus, in his Incarnation, God becoming flesh/human, brought a revolution into this world that, in the end, brings in the new creation through the coming of God's kingdom. And it's not something that's dropped out of the sky. But worked, incarnationally through God's people in Jesus, even now. Jesus dwells among us, and in us. So this work of God is from person to person. From people to other people. Through God's people in this world.

I like to think of it as face to face. Not in your face. Being there, as a humble community, to be Christ to the world. Even in our own incompleteness, and in the midst of our own ongoing transformation from our brokenness.

This means I can befriend and be there for anyone in this world. And we as the community of God in Christ can do the same. Taking in everyone. Knowing that for us all, it is Christ among us who makes the difference, period.

This incarnational community is Christ's Body in the world. It is thus more than a face to face community. It's also a bodily community for this world. Giving ourselves in love, as servants of God and servants of all. Offering our complete selves to God in worship and service. Living this kind of embodied existence in this world. So that we're there to help others. To express God's love to them in deed and word. That they might see Christ in and among us.

What would you add to these thoughts? How can this "face to face" reality help us? In our conflicts, even together as church? As well as in our mission to our neighbor, in this world?


L.L. Barkat said...

I think it's especially important to stay "face to face" when in conflict. (not that this precludes a cooling off time). Otherwise, we go off to our corners and dwell on the negative, which escalates the conflict.

So, what do I mean by face to face here? Not necessarily a continual discussion of the conflict source, but rather a "turning towards," in our thought life regarding the Other. (I think the exercise Gottman proposed, which is in the 'Relational Engagement' post on Seedlings, is an example of "turning towards.")

Ted Gossard said...

Yes, L.L. I like Gottman's exercises there. It is good to be "face to face", especially when Deb and I's noses touch. We start to laugh and any conflict can soon subside. We come to remember that something is more important than whatever disagreement or difference we may have.

Ted Gossard said...

That something, I should add, our relationship, and the love we share with each other.

andre said...


Thanks for pointing to the post on pluralism. It was interesting. I've never really understood why pluralism is viewed in poor light. I think it's because we've politicized the phrase.

Pluralism is good and we need to know how to communicate in a pluralistic context. We should accept pluralism as a fact of the world we live in and should seek to communicate the gospel confidently in an open, pluralistic community. Confident because we know it's the truth.


Kim said...

I guess I can't help but respond through the filter of my own experience. As I look back, I was the whitewashed tomb that Christ spoke of. I put forward a "face" to the outside world, but I was very susceptible to the criticism of hypocrisy because I wasn't representing Christ well at home to my wife and children. I truly believe that many Christian men are hampered by this same issue. That may be why the church is losing face.

I've come to believe that husbands should have their wife's blessing before they head out to represent Him to the world. The compliment that my wife has paid me that I treasure most is that she has told people that I'm now the same person at home as the one that goes out into the wide world. Peace.

Ted Gossard said...

Andre, Yes. I agree wholeheartedly. We need to learn to think in the way he's suggesting, a whole lot more. I hear too much thought that seems more concerned with maintaining our identity as Americans, rather than the kingdom people of the one holy nation, we are, in Jesus. Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

Kim, I love your thoughts and testimony here. I think you hit on such an important and key issue for us all. If we don't love with Christ's love at home, we need to stop and begin there. I look forward to hearing more from you, as I visit your blog. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Ted, I actually used the word "incarnational" in my blog today too, though not nearly as eloquently.

I likek these ideas. I've always been intrigued that Jesus said that people will know we are His disciples just by how we love each other and get along with each other. Much more "face to face" than "in your face."

In my post today, I talked about how something as simple as a snow storm can bring people together because suddenly they have something in common. That's one way I try to be incarnational -- finding things in common with others rather than focusing on our differences.

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, Wonderful thoughts. And I really like your post! It really hits home alot better in conveying what "incarnational" is all about. Thanks!

Kim said...

Ted, you are the most prolific blogger! You must be online all day long. I have no idea how you do it. I'm struggling to post something relevant once a week!

Anyway, I've recently been struck with the idea that for us to understand our spirits, we must understand our feelings/emotions and in so doing we connect with Christ in a unique way.

As a typical man, I have operated in mostly in 3 emotions: anger, frustration and impatience. God has been really helping me with the anger issue. I've found that according to Proverbs, gaining wisdom and understanding slows down anger (and vice versa). Pursuing Jesus increases wisdom and understanding and slows down anger (and vice versa).

Why was it important that Jesus forsook His diety and became man?
Haven't we always heard that it was so He could become one of us? Walk among us? Experience what we expereience? Feel what we feel? Be
tempted and yet remain sinless? So, in our effort to become more like Him, it seems important that we connect with Him in a way that honors that voluntary divestment of diety. If He came to feel what we feel should we not, in turn, evaluate what we are feeling and ask ourselves, "Did He feel it too?"

In this way, even though 2000 years have passed, we connect with
Christ in a unique way. We feel what He felt. He feels what we feel. When we distill the depth of human feelings down they haven't changed throughout the ages!

Ted Gossard said...

Kim, Thanks for your kind, generous words.

In reality, I simply post what's on my heart, or in relation to what I think God is doing in my life, or in relation to what's been on my mind. And in doing so, I kind of just dive into it. Let it go. And then hope for interaction as in conversation from that. And I also hope that, should I be alive in five years, I would write it differently, in a more, informed, Christ-mature way.

Anyhow I'm in a factory for my work. And can't get on line much at work. And with one computer at home can't always get on line with that. But when I do I learn so much more from others than they can learn from me (of course, they outnumbering me, helps. ha.)

Ted Gossard said...

Kim, Also, I really appreciate your thoughts on Christ and us. On common emotions shared by each. That is tremendous. And tremendously important in our life and walk in God, I believe. That hits me in a new way, from your sharing. I look forward to reading more from you. Thanks!